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A few years ago, I spent some time working on a research project with a professor in a field (Statistics) that is completely unrelated to my current research (CS Theory). Ultimately, we were successful in demonstrating our main hypothesis, but due to COVID-related delays, the professor's own priorities, and my transitioning into a PhD -- as I mentioned, in a different field -- we did not end up writing the paper at that time.

I recently reached out again to them, since I had some free time, to see if we should test the model on new data and write up a short paper. It wouldn't have been a major publication, but I wanted to tie up loose ends and get something out of the work I had done. I am not an expert in this particular field, and while I can write the technical portion, only the professor is equipped to write the rest of the paper. Unfortunately, they have transitioned into a different role at their institution and feel that writing the paper now is perhaps not the best use of our time and resource.

While I broadly agree with this -- having this publication does not help my PhD progress, and is unlikely to have any effect on my future career trajectory -- I am still struggling to abandon the work I did.

Does it make sense to perhaps suggest finding someone who is interested in (and capable of) writing this paper with us? Or should I just take this L and move on with my own research? In the latter case, what would/should my ultimate takeaway from this project be?

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Yes, you could look for someone else to collaborate with, but don't lose track of the professor as they are likely a co author. But, here is a suggestion:

Write up everything you currently know about the project, while also listing everything you think is still to be done. Send it to the professor and ask that they archive it. Make an agreement with them that you will (yourself) revisit the project every six months and give an update if it seems warranted, but, at least, an email to keep in contact.

You might be amazed at what your mind will do in the background on a project that you have "on the shelf". If thoughts come to you make a note of them appending them to your write up as needed. And, keep your eye on the literature, of course.

Having such "work in progress" is a good thing generally and, when you get stuck on other projects you can spend a bit of time reviewing this one and seeing if any new insight develops.

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  • This is good advice, thank you. The professor will certainly remain a co-author. I just worry that shelving this project is not going to help as much because this is not a problem I think about very often at all. That is another reason, I find that bringing someone else with the expertise may be more prudent. Still, you are correct in that I should at least write it all down. Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 16:06
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    Your brain is a wonderful machine. I works without prompting. Insight is often a flash, even while taking a bath.
    – Buffy
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 16:10
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    And, of course, that professor might have a flash also. But, yes, bringing in new talent is also good.
    – Buffy
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 16:16
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    But do remember to put on your cloths before running around town shouting eureka after getting the flash while in bath Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 18:15

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